Capstone is an integral part of Civil Engineering (CE) undergraduate education. It requires graduating students to apply knowledge and skills gained from courses in the CE curriculum in a design that mimics the 'real world' projects. The scopes and level of details in senior design projects can vary noticeably. This paper presents a senior design project in which a group of five CE students participated in the 2019 National Timber Bridge Design Competition and built a timber bridge for a local community to enjoy.
The timber bridge is designed to comply with rules and requirements set by the national competition, the American Disability Act (ADA), the International Building Code (IBC), and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Following both the competition rules and design manuals certainly causes challenges and constraints in the design phase. The team developed the final structure through an iterative design process over the course of two months. The final design is based on two trusses distributing loads through different beams, and the trusses also serve as guardrails that are required for pedestrian bridges in public parks.
In this capstone project, the team first tested their bridge using competition-specified test load and duration, and measured the maximum vertical bridge deflection and the maximum vertical net deck deflection. Digital photographs, drawings, and a technical report were later submitted to attend the national competition. The timber bridge was then disassembled and transported to a local park to be resembled and placed over a brook in the park.
This capstone project is a great way for the team to be exposed to different facets of the Civil Engineering discipline. In addition, they interacted with various stakeholders, including a software vendor, a project mentor, a Town Engineer, the Director of Community, Recreation and Park Services, the Town Council, and the Mayor. The team also wrote a faculty-student research proposal in order to apply for an internal grant from the University Foundation. Among all the efforts in research, design, construction, testing, and national competition, the most important element is community engagement. The team gained a sense of achievements when their bridge is open to the public and continues to serve the local community in many years to come.
This capstone project won the team a second place in one of the multiple categories of the 2019 National Timber Bridge Design Competition. Town residents and officials were very impressed by the structurally solid and aesthetically appealing bridge donated by the team, and they graciously requested more bridges. This capstone project certainly initiated a mutually beneficial collaboration between the university and a local community and offered future students ideas to complete their degrees with a meaningful and memorable capstone project.
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